Delhi

Cautious but hopeful: picked up by NIA, freed men seek new lease of life

The house (second left) at Jaffrabad in New Delhi from where the NIA arrested a suspect in December 2018. File photo

The house (second left) at Jaffrabad in New Delhi from where the NIA arrested a suspect in December 2018. File photo   | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

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Azam and Zaid were arrested by NIA in December 2018 as ‘terror suspects’

Mohammed Azam returned home in north-east Delhi’s Jaffrabad on July 2 and since has been trying to revive the earnings from his medical store, which he said “have been halved” while he was in prison.

Home after six months

Mr. Azam was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in December 2018 along with 13 others from Delhi and western Uttar Pradesh for allegedly trying to establish an “Islamic State caliphate” by resorting to largescale terrorist attacks. He spent six months in jail as a terror suspect before charges were dropped against him.

Mr. Azam said he has been relying on the goodwill he had earned earlier to revive his shop. “In areas like these, shops mostly run on goodwill. Why would anyone come to the shop in my absence?” he said. The shop was being run by Mr. Azam’s nephew in his absence.

“I am just happy to be back home,” he said, while attending to a customer who entered the shop declaring: “Dukaan ki raunak wapas aa gayi [The shop has regained its life].”

Mr. Azam suspects that he was picked up because he was in contact with Mohammed Mufti Suhail, an alleged mastermind, who was also arrested. “I used to ask him about my doubts regarding Islam. Last year, I had gone to Saudi Arabia and called him from there as well to ask something. We grew up together and our fathers also knew each other. This is what I told the NIA also,” he said.

A few blocks from Mr. Azam’s house resides Zaid Malik (23), who was also released on the same day. Mr. Malik’s brother Zubair is still in jail.

Mr. Malik, who helps the family in their motor manufacturing unit, said he is now cautious about who he meets, talks to and what he searches for on the Internet.

Currently, he is using the family’s spare smartphone and said he would take a SIM card only after two-three months.

‘Rest for a while’

“If someone wants to meet me, I call them home as I don’t prefer going out. I need rest for a while... mentally. I did not do anything wrong and so I will live my life like I used to. But, I am taking precautions for a few months,” he said.

Mr. Malik said his family, friends, relatives and neighbours knew he was innocent and so his image has not been tarnished because of the arrest. “Those who matter know I did not do anything and those who don’t matter, can think what they want,” he said.

Recalling a conversation he had with a female friend three years ago, Mr. Malik said: “She told me ‘you have started keeping a beard, people will start seeing you with a different eye’.”

Talking about his time in jail, Mr. Malik said he always had a positive mindset because of his religious learnings. “It was an experience,” he said.

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Mr. Malik also suspects that the reason he was picked up was because he was in contact with Mufti Suhail. He said he had spoken to him a number of times in 2018 regarding Islam and its teachings.

On July 2, Mr. Malik was received outside Tihar jail by his father, brothers, and friends. He recalled that the first thing he ate upon returning home was biryani.

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Printable version | Dec 15, 2019 9:06:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/charges-dropped-men-seek-new-lease-of-life/article28765651.ece

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